The Masked Crusaders
Batman and Spider Man wear masks to hide their true identity from the bad guys. Even the good guys might accidentally reveal the identity of the superheroes if they knew.
Kids need to be like masked crusaders when they surf through the web. The internet can be a great place to learn, have fun make new friends all over the world. But, just like in the real world, everyone is not always your friend. On the Web, people are not always who and what they say they are. Some people may want to take advantage of you because they know you are a child. A few of them might really be your enemies.
You need to play it safe when you surf the web, use chat rooms or message boards. Adults will be following the same rules.
Here are some of the rules to follow:
Use a nickname, sometimes called a screen name, alias or handle. Most people just tell others the state they live in. If you live in or around a fairly large city, you might tell someone the name of the city. But, check with your parents. Don't ever tell anyone the name of the small town or neighborhood you live in.
Even if you do meet, go only with a parent or trusted adult and meet only in a very public place. Never go alone.
Get and use a remote e-mail account. Ask your parents to help with this. E-mail accounts are usually free. You can still use the same one, even if your family changes it's local internet service. If someone starts causing you problems or sends threatening messages to your e-mail address, you can simply disappear. Just get a new one, from another company, let your friends know the new address and cancel the old one.
You may be asked to give address, telephone numbers or other personal information in order to enter contests, join a club or receive a newsletter. Never provide this information without your parent's permission. Your parent will need to review each entry and read the "fine print" that tells how the information might be used.
You already know many organizations that have web sites. Examples may be your school, church or scouts. Treat information on their web sites the same as you would offline. But, be especially suspicious of information on web sites presented by people or organizations you aren't familiar with offline. Ask your parent or guardian for help if you aren't sure.
Along with playing safe, play fair. Learn to be courteous and thoughtful when dealing with others online. You'll make more friends that way and will enjoy using the web even more.
Special thanks to the many sources of information for this article. They include: Disney, Microsoft, Lycos, Yahoo, Smartparent.com and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.